Who Is Félix Hernández?

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

 

Who is this Felix Hernandez character?  I’ve heard people talk about him, but I’m not sure who he is.  By the looks of this picture, I can tell that he is from Seattle.  I see an emblem tucked away behind his head that resembles a compass, and if I’m correct, the Pacific Northwest has been known for it’s sea-based economy.  Seafood, seafaring, or Sea Fair-ing, this Hernandez is definitely from Seattle.  The beanie is also a dead give-away.  Rock music from Seattle in the nineties was known as “grunge”, and they were notorious for wearing plaid, unclean shirts, hole-y pants and beanies.  He could also be a fan of The Edge.

The next hint that we can extrapolate from this image is the ebony plaque.  Seattle is also known for it’s aeronautics, and one of the main symbolic items we can see is a giant “V”.  This could be alluding to the B-2 Stealth Bomber.  One of the attributes of this bomber is its sneakiness.  This Hernandez character has definitely been avoiding some radars.  I’m not sure what kind of radars they are, but I think they are based on the east coast.

Finally, the mysterious Monkey’s Paw showcased in the middle of the plaque.  This fictional talisman grants the owner three wishes, but as we find out, they come at a cost.  I wonder what price Mr. Hernandez paid for such a plaque.  It might cost him great financial trouble-maybe he could be making more money doing something else, or doing whatever it is he does somewhere else.  Or perhaps it will jeopardize his chances at prolonging his career, whatever his career may be.  Or perhaps he will be forever criticized.  Whatever the case, it must’ve come at a great misfortune.  We can only wonder as we delve deeper into the mystery of Felix Hernandez.

I love that Dustin Ackley is ours and nobody else can have him.  I love that Michael Pineda is ours and nobody else can have him.  I love that Felix Hernandez, for the time being, is ours and no-body-else can have him.  I haven’t been wondering why he isn’t in Cy Young talks this year, because, well, there are a bevy of amazing pitchers this year and all of them are putting up spectacular seasons.  Justin Verlander is mowing down batters this season racking up 186 strikeouts so far.  Jered Weaver has an ERA of 1.78, and despite how flawed ERA as a statistic is, that’s still beyond stellar.  With at least 170 innings pitched, his FIP is 2.58, right behind CC Sabathia and Roy Halladay.

Felix Hernandez is a pitcher.  I’ve heard the radio and TV side both say that he’s become more of a pitcher, meaning that he’s no longer relying on the sexy strikeout to make outs.  He can utilize his sinker and get ground-outs if he needs to, he can throw more in the zone and rely on his defense, he can throw his curve for strikes.  He’s a pitcher.  But I’m not sure I’m completely sold on the fact that he’s no longer a strikeout pitcher, I don’t buy it.  The talking heads would have us believe that he’s changed his game, but looking closer, I believe otherwise.

If regression is a thing, which it most surely is a thing, we can see evidence of it’s existence in Hernandez’s Contact Rate.  Although always at or below the league average, it’s always fluctuated very tightly together.  We haven’t seen Felix start to pitch to contact, however.  His contact rate hasn’t made a huge jump up yet.  He isn’t completely relying on his sinker, and we still see that big yacker.  His contact rate is still amazing.  Next, looking at the Swinging Strike Rate, he’s always been better than the league average.  His stuff is still great, his delivery is still deceptive.  He’s still fooling batters, and he actually did a better job getting them to whiff in the year previous to his Cy Young campaign.

The last point we can consider are the Strikeout per 9 Innings percentages.  Look at those sexy, sexy numbers.  Mmm, numbers.  All these data sets are inconclusive, however, because the 2011 season isn’t over.  We’ll have to come back to examine the numbers then.  But until that time, look at the chart.  Felix’s K/9 rate is climbing.  Strikeouts are at a high right now, and these numbers may be inflated due to this.  But this is promise.  Felix is getting better.  Is that possible?  Can Oprah make more money?  Can M. Night Shyamalan make a good movie?  Of course it’s possible, but it could go either way.

Bill Krueger, who is an expert-analyst that was never actually good at anything, finally said something that I agree with.  During one of Felix’s outings, he called his two-seamer a “wiffle-ball sinker”.  After watching the replays, I couldn’t disagree.  He was right.  These pitches were just unfair.  In fact, let’s watch one together, shall we!

You can watch the full, un-gif-ified video here.  That’s just nasty.  It’s nearly diabolical.  And if you enjoy devilish things, enjoy two more graphics from Texas Leaguers:

  

For those who haven’t been to Texas Leaguers, please check them out.  They have an expansive pitch F/X database, and that is how I was able to locate this strikeout pitch against Scott Sizemore.

That 93-mph sinker had about 12 inches of movement on it.  How sick is that!  And Felix threw it for a strike.  You can’t tell me that he’s regressing towards league average.  You can’t tell me that he’s abandoning his strikeout stuff.  Felix Hernandez has a toolbox, and he’s going to use every one of those tools to get hitters out.

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad he’s on our side.

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